Friedman’s top five events of 2014

In a season of lists, George Friedman, Chairman of the global intelligence company Stratfor, has made a list of his top five events for 2104.

1: Europe’s Persistent Decline

    The single most important event in 2014 was one that did not occur: Europe did not solve its longstanding economic, political and social problems.

Europe, taken together, remains the world’s largest economy and a centre of global commerce, science and culture. It’s inability to solve its problems or make any significant progress has the potential to disrupt the world system. There is general economic malaise and huge unemployment in the south. Continue reading Friedman’s top five events of 2014

The price of oil

Recently John Quiggin in The fossil fuel crash of 2014 asked what should we make of the fact that oil prices have fallen from more than $100/barrel in mid-2014 to around $60/barrel today? He also looked at coal, I’ll stick with oil. Quiggin poses the questions:

The big questions are
(i) to what extent does the price collapse reflect weak demand and to what extent growing supply
(ii) will these low prices be sustained, and if so, what will be the outcome?

Quiggin says:

The answer to the first question seems to be, a mixture of the two, with some complicated lags.

I thought it was the Saudis increasing supply to put the American frackers out of business. This turns out not to be the case. Richard Heaney gives us this graph on monthly oil production:


So it is the Americans who have largely increased supply. The Saudis have simply decided not to reduce supply, the usual tactic to increase the price. I’m sure they are hoping the American frackers will feel the squeeze.

Anjli Raval gives
this graph of costs:


Raval says that most at risk are the Canadian oil sands, US shale plays and other areas of “tight oil”. Also vulnerable are Brazil’s deepwater fields and some Mexican projects. Crude at $70 puts at risk projects for 2016 to the extent of 1.5 million barrels per day.

Raval has perhaps the best discussion of what might happen in the future. The short answer is that we don’t know. A pull-back in investment could lay the basis for the next price surge. There may also be a switch to cleaner energy sources.

Much of the discussion, including a Financial Times editorial arguing that the fall in the price of oil was good for the economy (the concern was over deflation), ignores climate change.

John Quiggin says, inter alia that:

if we are to reduce emissions of CO2, a necessary precondition is that the price of fossil fuels should fall to the point where it is uneconomic to extract them.

I’m confused. I thought the aim of carbon pricing was to make fossil fuels more expensive to discourage use and to make the use of renewable alternatives competitive.

Adair Turner in a piece Please Steal Our Fossil Fuels goes into considerable detail about the transition to renewables. If all the fossil fuels were stolen we would not be stuck (or not for long) and it would in the long run cost a negligible amount more. However, the assumption is that the transition will depend on price. Unfortunately electric cars may not be cheaper until the late 2020s. There is plenty of oil in the ground and whilst it is available we will keep using it.

Turner says “we should commit to leaving most fossil fuels forever in the ground” and no great harm would befall us economically if we did, but we won’t. Miracles would be required.

At this point I’ll state my case that we should act out of policy, not rely on markets or miracles. If Germany can forswear nukes because they are dangerous and evil, why can’t we do the same in relation to fossil fuels, which are even more dangerous? Sooner or later we’ll have to ignore the fossil fuel mafia.

Before I go, Heaney has this graph of the oil price in recent years:


It demonstrates that oil can be extremely volatile. There is no way of telling where the current crash will end, but my guess is that it will more or less stabilise soon. After that we are in uncharted territory.

Elsewhere Jeffrey Frankel makes several interesting points.

Firstly most dollar denominated commodities have fallen in price, including iron ore, silver, gold, platinum, sugar, cotton and soybeans. So something general is going on beyond the vagaries of specific commodities.

Secondly, The Economist’s euro-denominated Commodity Price Index has actually risen over the last year.

Third, and most importantly, it seems, there is a link between commodity prices and interest rates. When interest rates go up, commodity prices fall. Frankel suggests that traders are anticipating a rise in interest rates in the US next year. It’s not the whole story, but perhaps an important factor overlooked elsewhere.

Climate clippings 119

1. Abbott appoints fruitcake to assist Greg Hunt


He says he’s not a denier or a sceptic, so let’s just call him a fruitcake. In the recent ministerial reshuffle Bob Baldwin has been moved from Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry to Parliamentary Secretary to the Environment Minister.

Baldwin told the Chinese that the climate had been changing for millions of years and we wouldn’t have coal, oil or gas without climate change. That’s a typical denialist tack. Elsewhere he quoted that well-known authority on everything, Queensland radio shock-jock Michael Smith. If the atmosphere was a bridge a kilometre long, he said, the first 770 metres would be nitrogen, the next 210 metres oxygen, and so on until you come to CO2. Australia’s contribution of CO2 is the equivalent to 0.18 millimetres, the width of a human hair.

2. Bernie Fraser sends a Christmas message to Abbott


Basically, keep the Renewable Energy Target (RET), it all you’ve got, and the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) may not meet its initial target of 5% emissions reductions by 2020. In any case it is not scalable to meet the targets we are likely to be committed to post 2020.

The Climate Change Authority has just completed its review of the RET and a review of the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI), as mandated in the establishing legislation. I’d recommend reading Bernie’s Chairman’s Statement.

The CCA recommends extending the achievement date of the RET by up to three years, but this is the big picture:

The Authority has argued consistently throughout its short life that an effective policy response to the risks of climate change requires favourable winds on at least two fronts:

• first, a broad community consensus that climate change poses real risks to the community; and

• secondly, a well-stocked toolbox to be able to tap into opportunities to reduce emissions wherever they occur.

Neither exists today. The earlier broad political consensus has ruptured in recent years, and no early repair is in prospect. And the tool box is feeling less weighty, with the removal of the carbon pricing mechanism, an unproven ERF, and an uncertain outlook for the RET.

There’s more from Giles Parkinson who calls it “a damming assessment of Abbott government climate policy” and from Sophie Vorrath.

3. Harper flags carbon price rethink for Canada


Before Christmas when Tony Abbott was asked what he’d achieved as Minister for Women he nominated dumping the carbon tax. At the same time the Canadian PM Stephen Harper, Abbott’s soul-mate on climate policy, suggested that he was open to a country-wide carbon pricing scheme similar to the one implemented in Alberta.

In Alberta, energy heavy polluting companies are required to reduce their energy intensity, or improve their energy efficiency, annually. If they don’t, they must contribute to a technology fund at $15 a tonne for carbon emissions.

“I think it’s a model on which you could, on which you could go broader,” Harper said in Wednesday’s interview.

4. Tesla pilots battery swap

Tesla is opening a battery swap station between Los Angeles and San Francisco on a pilot basis to see whether the idea goes anywhere. Zachary Shahan, the author of the linked piece, suggests perhaps not. The swap must be done by appointment and although it may be completed in less than a minute it would cost almost as much as a tank of premium. The alternative is free Supercharging for Tesla owners.

5. Technology on the move

In the same issue of RenewEconomy as the Tesla battery swap item above were three other technology announcements.

First, the ASX listed company Algae.Tec has issued rights to raise capital to build an algae biofuel plant in India.

Second, the ADF is looking to replace diesel generation with renewable energy to power Bathurst Island, north of Darwin, probably wind and solar.

Third, a solar plant that floats on water is being launched in South Korea.

6. Banks begin to take climate risk seriously

The large investor Australian Super has been asking banks about their climate change risk policies. It sounds as though banks are pretending to be more active than they really are, but it is clear that the investment landscape has changed forever. If the banks have not been actively concerned, they soon will.

Former Coalition opposition leader John Hewson, who chairs the Asset Owners Disclosure Project

is considering “naming and shaming” how the world’s 1000 biggest banks are responding to carbon risk, something it already does for pension funds.

Saturday salon 27/12 late edition


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

Here are a few bits and pieces that came to my attention last week.

1. It was a dark and stormy night


Actually we’ve had gentle rain tonight, easing. Probably about 15 to 20 mm. Enough to keep the grass, shrubs and trees interested, but not enough to run water into any of the dams on properties where I work.

Other than Christmas, not too much has happened that impinged on my consciousness, but then we’ve intentionally missed the news on telly a couple of times. With Christmas midweek I lost a sense of what day it was. Tomorrow’s Sunday, when I normally work on a 50-acre property with possibly an acre of kept gardens. If it’s raining in the morning I’ll put the cue in the rack which means for sure the sun will come out to a bright shiny day!

The idea of the image above came from son Mark’s Facebook. He’s holidaying in southern Thailand where I gather the weather is bad!

2. Tsunami anniversary

Mark will be here next week. I must ask him whether Koh Samui was affected by the Boxing Day tsunami.

Of course, Boxing Day was the tenth anniversary of the tsunami that destroyed large tracts of Aceh province in Sumatra, also affecting Thailand and Sri Lanka, killing some 230,000 people. See reports at the the ABC and the BBC.

3. Putin needs new annexations

Looking further abroad the German magazine Der Spiegel ran an interview with the Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who thinks that Putin needs new annexations to feed his popularity at home. Yatsenyuk is plainly pessimistic about any resolution of the situation, which is a worry for the whole world in 2015.

This article by Anatole Kaletsky is reasonably optimistic, pointing out that the formal truce struck in September is holding and that the situation should evolve into

a broadly stable “frozen conflict,” similar to the stalemates that have prevailed for years, even decades, in Georgia, Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kosovo, Cyprus and Israel, to name just the frozen conflicts closest to Europe.

Kaletsky thinks Ukraine will never make it into the EU or NATO. He thinks:

an EU association agreement, similar to Turkey’s, could help reduce corruption and encourage economic reform. A dual trading relationship with both Europe and Russia could ultimately offer Ukraine the only possible route to economic viability. This sort of relationship should become possible once this year’s conflict is definitively “frozen.”

4. Heightened terrorist “chatter”

There is always a possibility that Abbott’s warning of heightened terrorist chatter is playing politics. I’d be inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Professor Jeff Lewis, terrorism expert at RMIT, said:

predictions were “very, very difficult” but believed an attack would occur in the following year.

“While we engage in war against ISIS it makes us vulnerable,” he said.

“I wouldn’t want to put a percentage on it, but I think in the next 12 months something else will happen, either in Australia or in Indonesia directed at Australians.”

Not good!

Explaining the pause that wasn’t


We’ve only just seen that statistically there never was a recent ‘pause’ or ‘hiatus’ in warming when two articles show up explaining the pause that wasn’t. A key word here is statistically. No-one is suggesting that there may not be variations from time to time that do not breach the trend.

Also climatologists are always interested in understanding the physical mechanisms behind both short-term variability and longer term trends.

First, via Carbon Brief there has been a new study examining the impact of aerosols from volcanoes.

Virtually all research into the climate influence of volcanic aerosols has used satellite measurements of particulates in the upper atmosphere (the stratosphere). These satellite measurements only monitor the volcanic aerosol at heights of 15 km and above. The new paper by David Ridley and colleagues studied the amount of volcanic aerosols in portions of the stratosphere that lie below 15 km.

They found that 30 to 70% of aerosols from recent eruptions lodged below the 15 km mark. Further, these lower level aerosols had been responsible for significant cooling since 2000. Taken together with additional heat being stored in the deep oceans, the slowdown is “both fully accounted for and temporary.”

Estimated volcanic cooling from this source is not included in climate models.

A second study looks at the influence of Pacific winds on warming since the 1890s. They did this by analysing the chemical make-up of corals.

The coral record suggests, for example, that trade winds were weak between 1910 and 1940 when the Earth warmed by 0.4 degrees, and were strong from 1940 to 1970, during a period of relatively little increase in global temperatures.

Apparently the winds have been very strong since the turn of the century.

The winds in question are the trade winds that move tropical surface water from east to west. This two-dimensional image attempts to illustrate the complex pattern. Trade winds just north and south of the equator drive warm surface water westwards:


The water is replaced by cool water rising from the deep, which is known to affect global average surface temperatures. A simplified mechanism of how this works is given in the following:


Knowledge of the influence of the wind on temperature variations is not new. For example, Matthew England of the University of NSW and others published a paper early in 2014 on the subject. England says of the new paper:

“This is a really important study: it confirms the crucial role of the Pacific Ocean in driving decadal climate variability at a global scale.”

The strength of the trade winds is associated with a natural climate phenomenon called the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO). The IPO has positive and negative phases, which switch every few decades. Lead author Professor Diane Thompson says:

“We do know that the typical lifetime of a phase of this cycle is less than 30 years, and the current one began about 15 years ago. So although the timing of that switch remains difficult to anticipate, it would be most likely to happen within the next one to two decades.”

We don’t know the future of volcanic activity, nor when the Pacific wind pattern is going to switch. What we do know is that both have been inhibiting warming in recent years.

Of course Pacific wind patterns are also associated with ENSO where El Niño years are warmer and La Niña years are cooler. A year ago Stefan Rahmstorf looked at The global temperature jigsaw where he identified a variety of influences at work. It included a graph from a 2012 paper which used a multivariate correlation analysis to take out the influence of ENSO, volcanoes and solar activity. The pink line shows observed data and the red line with those three factors removed:


The ‘pause’ effectively goes away.

The observed data (pink line) in the above graph is an average of five data sets. It is likely that two of them, HadCRUT and NOAA omitted the Arctic entirely. I’ll post again the recent HadCRUT4 hybrid data from the satellite era which Rahmstorf suggests is now the best:


Again a pause is pretty hard to find, especially if you ignore 1998 as a outlier year. Of course 1998 should not be ignored as it appears to have had a crucial role in transferring stored heat from the ocean to the surface. It’s worth remembering just how little of the planet’s energy is stored on the surface compared to the ocean:


Rahmstorf did predict that when we had another El Niño year a new record would be set. 2014-15 is not an El Niño, not yet, but is being heralded as the warmest ever. I’ll wait for it to actually happen before reporting on it further. Meanwhile it’s a fair bet that we will have strong warming in the next few decades.

Season’s greetings!


Climate Plus wishes you a pleasant Christmas/New Year and health and happiness for 2015.

Personally it’s been an up and down year. I’m rather looking forward to 2015!

For the blog it has been up and down too. I’ve been grateful for your support. We’ve struggled a bit since I took a holiday, but have just had the best day traffic-wise in months! I think Hockey’s budget was a great blessing for us. Now if Abbott would only do the decent thing and resign!

I had originally thought to have a blogging hiatus for a few weeks over the festive season. I need to do my tax, which is a major production – much ado about almost nothing, really – and some other personal stuff. On reflection, I think I’ll keep the blog open but at reduced volume. I’d hate to miss out if Abbott really did make an honest man of himself.

So as it stands I hope to get back to full production by about the third week in January. Certainly I plan to carry on from there, health permitting, while foreshadowing that we have booked a European holiday and river cruise down the Danube in October. We’ll certainly be back for the Paris climate conference in December.

I’ll leave you with this photo, packing up at Purni Bore in the Simpson Desert, which captures some of my mixed feelings about the year:


Changing the barnacles


Would you believe Abbott has made 16 changes in all. Three barnacles have been dropped to the bottom of the ocean – Arthur Sinodinos, the already benched Assistant Treasurer, Defence Minister David Johnston and Brett Mason, Parliamentary Secretary to the Foreign Affairs Minister.

Some have had their role expanded. Ian Macfarlane is now Minister for Industry and Science; Christopher Pyne is now Minister for Education and Training.

The big movers are Kevin Andrews from Social Services to Defence, Scott Morrison from Immigration and Border Protection to Social Services, Peter Dutton from Health to Immigration and Sussan Ley from Assistant Education Minister to the cabinet post of Minister for Health and Sport.

Also Josh Frydenberg scored the Assistant Treasury ministry, whereas Hockey’s pick, Steve Ciobo, got a sideways flick as Parliamentary Secretary from Treasury to Foreign Affairs and Trade and Investment. Ciobo has been replaced at Treasury by newbie Kelly O’Dwyer.

Mungo MacCallum sees it as rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic as the ship founders on. Scott Morrison, he says, now has “an opportunity to prove that he can be as brutal with welfare recipients as he has been with refugees.”

Paula Matthewson thinks the reshuffle is built on paranoia rather than progress.

Tony Abbott’s ministry reshuffle may appear to be a reset in preparation for 2015, but in reality it is more about the PM’s paranoia and tenuous leadership than it is about his Government’s rejuvenation.

For example, the Victorian young guns have been rewarded to quell their noisy agitation over Peta Credlin.

Julie Bishop has lost a friend and fellow West Australian in David Johnston.

Scott Morrison, she thinks, has been given a poison chalice, “a way for Abbott to push through one of his toughest reform agendas while also reducing the appeal of one of his competitors.”

The future is not bright for Kevin Andrews and Peter Dutton:

Kevin Andrews’ move to Defence will likely see him begging to be let go by the next election, for the Department is known for chewing up and spitting out their civilian “masters”. The future doesn’t look particularly rosy for former Health Minister Peter Dutton either. Dutton may be a retired policeman but it’s difficult to see him bring the same steely resolve that served Morrison so well in the Immigration and Border Protection portfolio.


Prime ministers usually reshuffle their ministry to provide a fresh aspect on their government while hopefully also evoking a sense of stability through the regeneration. But with one or two exceptions, like the promotion of Ley, Abbott’s reshuffle is characterised by concessions to antagonists, throwing competitors in the deep end, and leaving the deadwood to atrophy.

Norman Abjorensen takes a somewhat similar view. The big threat, he thinks, is from Julie Bishop. A familiar scenario is taking shape in Canberra:

It runs like this: persistently poor polling for both the prime minister and the government creates anxiety over the next election, especially among those in vulnerable seats; a path is beaten to the door of the hitherto loyal deputy leader, who just happens to be a woman; the message is blunt: you have to challenge or we are gone.

Hockey, he says, is no longer a threat:

Then there is Treasurer Joe Hockey, who was once laughably seen as a future leader, and is shown in the polls as the most unpopular minister and as the least regarded treasurer in the past 40 years. He is a poor communicator – always ready to deflect a hard question with a smirk or a sneer rather than an answer – who has palpably failed in framing a budget that he is unable to negotiate through parliament. This violates the cardinal rule of politics: that it is all about the art of the possible.

Abbott, he says, is moving from a position of weakness, so the changes are essentially minor. He couldn’t undertake a big call like sacking Hockey, which at least one powerful member of the business lobby has privately advocated.

I’m staggered that Social Services is considered a key economics ministry. We know that is where the most money is spent, and certainly the Minister gets to join the so-called Razor Gang.

Andrews to Defence is, I think, a clever move. Abbott no doubt wants to run defence, with a white paper and submarine contracts on the go. Also Matthewson is probably right in that Andrews will beg to be released after a year, allowing another reshuffle.

From these reactions it is clear that leadership speculation, much loved by the media, has begun in earnest and will continue unless Abbott can turn the polls in his favour. Meanwhile his attention has been drawn to his own office, with leaks, shuffling staff and concern about communication strategy.

Update: Tim Dunlop has done a great piece on the reshuffle. He reckons it’s

like changing who wears which colour skivvy in the Wiggles: it doesn’t make any difference, and they all end up singing the same old tunes.

Tony Abbott is still the Prime Minister. Joe Hockey is still the Treasurer. They are still committed to their budget and its underlying philosophy of market liberalism and a wholesale attack on the pillars of the welfare state.

Let’s focus on that, not which Wiggle is wearing which skivvy.

The end of the warming pause that wasn’t

The bottom line is that statistically there never was a recent ‘pause’ or ‘hiatus’ in warming. If you ever thought there was you’d have plenty of company, but 2014 sees temperatures returning to the trend line.

At RealClimate Stefan Rahmstorf took a look at global surface temperatures since the satellite record in 1979. He used Kevin Cowtan’s interactive temperature plotting and trend calculation tool and HadCRUT4 hybrid data, which now has the most sophisticated method to fill data gaps in the Arctic with the help of satellites. This is what he found:


Rahmstorf then looks at some shorter intervals using more recent starting dates. He finds:

There simply has been no statistically significant slowdown, let alone a “pause”.

He then displays an analysis done for Realclimate by Niamh Cahill of the School of Mathematical Sciences, University College Dublin using a technique called change point analysis. This time GISTEMP data from NASA GISS is used from 1880 to the present. 2014 was represented by January to October data, the latest available.

The algorithm used sorts through the data looking for changes in the trend lines, which it finds automatically. This is how it came out:


Change points were found approximately at 1912, 1940 and 1970. The trend since 1970 is firmly in place.

Tamino at Open Mind took a look at the same data. People often cherry pick a starting date so using a different statistical technique he examined whether there had been any change in trend starting from any year between 1990 and 2008. Often people choose a data set that suits their argument so he ran the technique over all eight commonly available data sets.

He could find no trend change – not even close.

I repeat: not only is there a lack of valid evidence of a slowdown, it’s nowhere near even remotely being close. And that goes for each and every one of the 8 data sets tested.

He then plots the GISTEMP data from 1970:


It’s all happening between the trend lines. Of course there are fluctuations, but none of significance. Not yet.

For a time the Hadley data simply left out the Arctic area where there are no weather stations. Of course the Arctic is warming faster than lower latitudes and it came to a point where this mattered. Recently they’ve corrected this by using satellite data, not directly, as the satellites measure the troposphere rather than the surface. I gather the satellite data is used comparatively to infer the surface temperature across the Arctic.

Looking back over the archive, there was a study by Cowtan and Way (see RealClimate and Climate clippings 89, Item 4) which compared the HadCRUT4 data of that time with ‘filled in’ data. This is how it looks:


Notice how the heavier corrected lines make 1998 a little cooler and recent peaks a little warmer.

Even so, I recall that Ross Garnaut in preparing his report about five years ago asked two leading statisticians to examine the trends. They said the long term warming trend was still in place. Seems they were right.

Climate clippings 118

1. Growth in CO2 slows

Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuel use and cement production grew 2% in 2013 to the new record of 35.3 billion tonnes of CO2. This was about half the average for the last 10 years and less than global GDP growth of 3.1%.

2. Aradhna Tripati gets a gong

The Center for Biological Diversity presented its third annual E.O. Wilson Award for Outstanding Science in Biodiversity Conservation to Dr. Aradhna Tripati for her groundbreaking research on carbon dioxide’s role in climate change.

Tripati’s work revealed that the last time CO2 levels were as high as they are today was 15 million to 20 million years ago, when the distribution of plants and animals was dramatically different, global temperatures were 5 to 10 degrees warmer, and the sea level was 75 to 120 feet higher than today. Her research suggests that the CO2 threshold for maintaining year-round Arctic ice may be well below modern levels.

Converting from Fahrenheit to Celsius and feet to metres that would make 2.7 to 5.5°C and 23 to 36 metres.

I would caution that the shape of the ocean basins may have been different, but these are alarming findings.

3. 1000-year drought history of Queensland and New South Wales

By analysing ice cores Australian scientist have found that there were eight droughts in the last millennium that lasted more than five years, with one of the so-called mega droughts lasting for almost 40 years. That was back in the 12th century.

This tends to indicate that the Millennium Drought and the Big Dry from 1997 to 2009 were not unusual.

From the official news release:

Explaining the findings, Dr Vance said the ice core analysis had significantly enhanced our understanding of a relatively poorly understood phenomenon known as the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO).

The IPO describes a roughly 25-year cycle in the sea surface temperature, wind and other factors in the Pacific Ocean.

The IPO’s positive phase is closely linked with longer and more severe droughts in the United States and Australia. The risk of droughts occurring in Australia is higher during the IPO’s positive phase.

I’m not questioning the findings but how drought in Queensland and NSW can be derived from drilling ice cores in the Antarctic is not immediately obvious.

Where does this leaves global warming? The authors don’t say, but the clear implication is that severe droughts are part of the natural cycle. Warming is a given. The most recent analysis I recall is that drying along the southern edge of the continent has a climate change component. North of the Victorian border there is uncertainty.

4. Lifters or leaners?

Or backmarkers. UK PM David Cameron thinks Australia does not want to be a “backmarker” on climate change action. Global pressure will make us do more. Has he met our Tones?

Christian Downie thinks the real achievement of the Lima climate talks

wasn’t the goals set, but the fact that international talks like these make it increasingly hard for breakaway countries to ignore the issue.

John Kerry spells it out:

“If you are a big developed nation and you do not lead, you are part of the problem.”

Part of the problem indeed, and perhaps an active climate change vandal. Kieran Cooke reports that in Lima Australia was “lobbying for rules that undermine the integrity of the emissions accounting system”.

5. Antarctic sea ice

One of the conundrums of climate science has been the question of why the Antarctic sea ice has been expanding. Eric Steig at RealClimate takes a detailed look. One of the complexities is that the sea ice is expanding in some places and contracting in others. This, he says, rules out simplistic notions like an increase in westerly winds.

However, if you take into account the changes in all the wind patterns in the Antarctic you get a better match, indeed a good match.

Finally Steig says:

Not incidentally, changing winds also have a lot to do with what’s been happening to the Antarctic ice sheet (meaning the land-based glaciers, distinct from the sea ice). I’ll have another post on that later this month, or in the New Year.

Simpson Desert crossing 10: Cooper’s Creek to Emerald

Len remembered a perfect camping place on Cooper’s Creek from a trip he’d taken with a friend a few years ago, so we eschewed the main camping area and headed down a side-track on the left. When we got there it just didn’t look right. We decided to walk through the bush along the river bank looking for the spot. After about 10 minutes we found it. Continue reading Simpson Desert crossing 10: Cooper’s Creek to Emerald

Saturday salon 20/12


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

Here are a few bits and pieces that came to my attention last week.

1. Eight children dead

What can one say?!

Eight children from the same family are dead following a stabbing incident which has left the Cairns community in shock.

The 34-year-old mother of seven of the children is in hospital with chest and neck injuries and police say there is no safety threat to the public.

The victims are aged between 18 months and 15 years.

The injured woman is helping police with their inquiries.

Cairns children_2a9e6404-9727-4964-96d6-7b7f788e285e_500

There’s more at the BBC and The Guardian.

I heard initially that the woman called the ambulance, who alerted the police. There’s a story now that a 20 year-old sibling came to the house and called the police.

We are told that there are no suspects, but there is nothing to fear. It doesn’t make sense.

2. 132 children dead in Peshawar

And nine teachers.

The Pakistani city of Peshawar is burying its dead after a Taliban attack at a school killed at least 132 children and nine staff.

Seven Taliban attackers wearing bomb vests cut through a wire fence to gain entry to the school, before launching an attack on an auditorium where children were taking an exam.

Gunmen then went from room to room at the military-run school, shooting pupils and teachers where they found them in a siege that lasted eight hours, survivors say.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared three days of mourning over the massacre, which has sparked national outrage.

Mr Sharif pledged to avenge a “national tragedy unleashed by savages”.

Ken Fraser says that the attacks, while repellent and unforgivable, were not the work of mindless monsters. He explains the complex web of political interests and and cultural factors at play.

Samina Yasmeen warns against the danger of desensitisation. She says:

unless the resolve is sustained, with active participation from all political parties in supporting the moves by the military to eliminate terrorism, the situation will not change.

This requires an end to the oppositional politics being played out in Pakistan by PTI but also requires the government to take solid measures to train national law enforcement agencies, and strengthen counter-terrorism agencies.


The religious fraternity needs to promote the message of peace, openly counter the reading of religious edicts as justifying offensive and indiscriminate killings of citizens and soldiers in Pakistan and elsewhere.

3. ‘Shirtfront’ is word of the year

The runner up, apparently, was “Team Australia”. Frankly, either we have been particularly unimaginative or the Australian National Dictionary Centre has lost the plot.

4. Early Christmas present for Bill Shorten

I think Newspoll didn’t bother, but Roy Morgan did and found that ALP support had surged to 57.5% (up 4%), well ahead of the L-NP 42.5% (down 4%) on a two-party preferred basis. This is what it looks like:

Morgan D 2014_cropped_600

5. Gillard cleared of criminality

Gillard was cleared of criminality by the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption although they found some issues with her professional judgement and her evidence.

You might recall that this was a big issue late in 2012, when the Roy Morgan poll above shows that Labor under Gillard was competitive in the polls. Julie Bishop led a merciless campaign in Question Time on Gillard’s credibility with Abbott eventually making a direct accusation of criminality.

Gillard says she is owed an apology. She is right.

6. Crook’s a crook

OK, there is the presumption of innocence, but things look a bit crook for Andrew Crook:

Clive Palmer’s media adviser and confidant Andrew Crook has been granted bail after being charged over the alleged kidnapping of a National Australia Bank executive on an Indonesian island.

Palmer reckons it’s a plot to embarrass him politically.

We do these things in Queensland to keep the nation amused.

Sydney siege

By my count we are now going to have four inquiries into the Lindt Cafe siege – a coroner’s inquiry, internal incident reviews by the NSW and Commonwealth police and a federal-state review undertaken by the Prime Minister’s department and the NSW Premier’s Department.

The latter will include an an investigation of how gunman Man Haron Monis slipped through state and federal security and legal nets, at his arrival in Australia, the decision to grant him of asylum, permanent residency and citizenship, as well as the social security support he received. I can’t see what social security support has to do with anything. I’m more interested in how he came by a pump-action shotgun.

Greg Barns believes bail laws are already an infringement on our liberty. The possession of personal freedom and the presumption of innocence are important principles in our society. New laws in NSW appear to contain a presumption against bail.

It is inappropriate for us to be second guessing what the magistrates had before them and we tend to be wise after the event about the risk that Monis constituted.

New Matilda details what we know officially. Listening to media reports there is a fair bit we know beyond that, but I’m happy to wait for the official reports.

I’ve yet to get a clear idea of what the gunman’s motivation was. What demands was he making to police, or was he just creating an incident and waiting to be shot one way or another? It’s possibly significant that the cafe was opposite Channel 7. There is a suggestion this morning that he wanted to talk to the Prime Minister. What were we supposed to make of the banner held up to the window?


Rachel Kohn discusses the inadequacy of the lone wolf theory. Monis was bad as well as mad and had a record that should have given concern. It does seem as though Monis may have written off as a harmless fruitcake when he was dropped from the watch list. It has been pointed out that resources to monitor individuals are always limited, so judgements need to be made.

Randa Abdel-Fattah asks whether we take crimes against women seriously enough. I gather here she is referring to the fact that he got bail for being an accessory to his wife’s murder and, separately, 40 sexual assault cases. Others have pointed out the weakness of the prosecution case for accessory to murder, also that both charges can vary from the relatively trivial to the extremely grave, depending on the specifics. We are in no position to know.

Also from Abdel-Fattah:

There is another issue though, too. And that is whether Australian Muslims will be entitled to grieve the deaths of the two hostages and the trauma suffered by the survivors in a way that does not make their empathy and grief contingent on condemning, apologizing and distancing themselves from the gunman.

David Connery reviews security aspects of the case:

While it’s still early to be analysing a situation that’s just concluded with two of our compatriots dead, the Martin Place siege this week shows that Australia’s high-level arrangements for responding to a terrorist attack are largely effective.

Still, we can expect to see a few near-term changes to our counter-terrorism arrangements in areas like public alerts and compensation for victims.

If the attack had occurred overseas, and was declared a terrorist attack, the Commonwealth government would offer compensation payments to victims and their relatives.

There is a need to resolve the long-running negotiations between the Commonwealth and the states over the allocation of dedicated broadband spectrum for emergency services.

The incident highlights how vulnerable we are to a lone actor.

Elsewhere Rachel Jacobs tells how #illridewithyou began.

Yes, I know that #illridewithyou is not enough in itself but I think it indicates how far we’ve come from the general islamophobia that was rife after the Twin Towers event in 2001.